StatsCan worker’s illness leads to firing

Employee with sleep disorder could only telework; job could only be done in office
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today

An employee’s request to work from home went beyond a government agency’s duty to accommodate her, the Canada Public Service Labour Relations Board has ruled. Louise Lafrance, 52, was a senior project officer for the statistical operations division of Statistics Canada. Her work involved preparing survey documents for interviewers, preparing training guides for clients and monitoring the progress of field surveys. She had been with the agency for 25 years and was considered a good employee.

In 2000, Lafrance took seven months off work because of sleep apnea, a disorder which affected her sleep and consequently her memory and concentration at work. At this time, her doctor suggested working from home, or teleworking, would help her health. Statistics Canada requested an assessment by Health Canada.

Health Canada submitted a report dated May 31, 2001, which recommended Lafrance stay off work until July 2001, when she could telework and gradually return to working full-time at the office over a period of time. The report stipulated this would help her improve her performance and it would be at least six months before she could work full-time at the office. Statistics Canada took this to mean she would be back in the office full-time after a few months. However, Lafrance continued to work primarily at home, going to the office twice a week, for two-and-a-half years. Another assessment, dated Dec. 12, 2003, said she still couldn’t work at the office but was able to work at home full-time.